This past weekend, I conducted another Blind Tasting at our humble little abode here in Houston for some of the area’s wine writers. As you may recall, I conduct a tasting of American True Rosés in the Spring, and the second was this Fall when we tasted through American Pinot Noirs.
Both tastings produced some surprises, which is, quite frankly, why tasting blind from time to time is healthy. It is often too easy to be influenced by price, producer, or PR firm when tasting non-blind, and it is also good to “re-center” one’s palate in a way—to focus only on what is in the glass.
This is our second tasting of American Sparkling Wine and while last year we had 33 corks to pop, this year was a much more manageable 32 wines. Once again, I invited several local Houston wine writers over for a December tasting—leading up to Sparkling Wine’s big night on December 31st.
The wines ranged from $12 up to $50, 8 of the 32 were rosé (and one was red), and all were produced using the “traditional method” (the same method used in Champagne where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle.
With the help of the other writers, we first removed all the foil and opened the wines. Then, half the “team” bagged the wines while the other half had left the room. Once bagged, the baggers then left the room and those that had just returned numbered the bags.
This way, while we knew what wines were in the tasting, there was no way to identify the wines.
We tasted four wines at a time, discussing each flight afterward for general impressions and preferences.
Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the first third of the wines. On Thursday, I will publish the second third, with the final third to be published this Friday along with the group’s selections for the top wines.
2015 Argyle Vintage Brut, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $28. 70% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier. Relatively clear, nice tart nose, pineapple. Tart and fresh on the palate, completely dry with green apple a go-go. Nice. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
NV Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, Carneros, CA: Retail $42. 59% Pinot Noir, 41% Chardonnay. Slightly pink with a decided orange tint. Red berries and a bit of yeast on the nose. Tart and rather austere, lacking some fruit, but really nice secondary flavors and quite tart. Nice. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
NV Chateau St. Jean Brut Rosé, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $25. Chardonnay and Barbera. Gorgeous pink with a hint of orange. Candied nose almost caramel. Fruity and a bit sweet on the palate. Good, but not my favorite. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Korbel Rouge, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $16. 100% Pinot Noir. Really dark, it is hard to hide when you’re this color. Fruity with some chocolate. Oxidized taste, a bit chalky. Fun, but not exactly what I think of when I think Sparkling wine, but quite festive. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley, North Coast, CA: Retail $28. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. Light straw in the glass with citrus and yeast. Yum. Tart apple and pear. The palate is quite delicious and the finish is lengthy and tart. Yum. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $13. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier. More of a candied nose with peach and even red berry fruit. More of the same on the nose with some sweetness. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Korbel Blanc de Noirs – Methode Champenoise, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $13. 75% Pinot Noir with Gamay, Zinfandel, Sangiovese. Light rosé color with a bit of orange. Nutty and a bit toasty. A bit wonky on the palate. I wonder what the varieties are here. Still, yum. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, Carneros, CA: Retail $22. 100% Chardonnay. Golden straw. A bit sweet on the nose with peach and pear. A bit lacking sparkle but good flavors and finish. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
NV Gruet Winery Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs Sauvage, New Mexico: Retail $20. 100% Chardonnay. Bright yellow, really bright but austere on the palate, nice tartness, but really rather lacking in fruit. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
NV Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley, North Coast, CA: Retail $35. 56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay. Slightly orange, rosé. Nutty, almost almond on the nose. Fruity on the nose, though with great balance and a lengthy finish. This is particularly nice. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
NV Gruet Winery Brut Rosé, New Mexico: Retail $17. 100% Pinot Noir. Vibrant pink but quite closed on the nose, the fruit eventually shows up on the palate with a hint of sweetness. Still, delicious. Excellent. 90-92 Points.